"This building is expensive."
Translation:هٰذِهِ الْبِناية غالْية.
Is it possible to predict from the written language whether the alif will be pronounced like in hArd or like in sAd? (In my language I am used to having nine very well defined vowels, and it perplexes me a bit that in Arabic I hear a great variety between the vowels, but I cannot see it!)
(1) In Arabic (Standard), alif (أ) doesn't have the "hard" sound -- it is always "low" (or flat), a i u. Maybe, do you mean the "hard" fatHa(h) at some letters? Six letters, ie. خَ - رَ - صَ - طَ - ظَ - غَ, are always hard. While, لَ sometimes is "la" and sometimes is "lA". It is "hard" when the letter is preceded by the Damma(h) or fatHa(h) sound, e.g., "AllAAh" اَلله, and "low" when is preceded by kasra(h), e.g., "lillaah" لِله. Does it answer your question?
(2) By the way, vær så snill, can you tell how about the "nine very well defined vowels" in your language? Takk, thanks in advance! :))